Joe Budden was the very first opener for Summer Jam’s main stage, and although the crowd was not yet full and it was still very much daylight, he held his own at the enormous stadium. The show kicked off (basically) on time, with Joe coming out at 6:40 PM. Joe’s performance may have been more like background music to most people, who were still finding their way to their seats, turning up (we were asked to ‘turn up’ a countless number of times through out the night), and generally just not paying the closest attention. This is often the case with openers, and so Joe was not deterred.
He kicked off the night with his No Love Lost track, “NBA.” 1/4 of Slaughterhouse soon became 1/2 of Slaughterhouse, as Joell Ortiz joined Budden on stage to perform the Slaughterhouse single “Hammerdance.” Joe got into another track off his recent album, with “Last Day,” before he got into two fan-favorites to close out his set. He performed his 2003 hit single “Pump It Up,” ending with one for the ladies, “She Don’t Put It Down Like You,” and that was the last we saw of Joe.
After Budden's pure hip hop warm-up, Miguel took the stage to contrast his presence with some smooth R&B jams. Backed by a full band, with a psychedelic, and appropriately kaleidoscopic backdrop, Miguel tore into his most recent hit “How Many Drinks”. The track served as the first of many moments where a guest appearance felt imminent, but Kendrick was nowhere to be found. Miguel's stage moves more than made up for K-Dot's absence, but it turned out the singer had some even bigger surprises planned.
Stressing that Summer Jam is known as a “Hip Hop festival” Miguel brought out the first huge guest of the night, as J. Cole graced the stage, and the two performed their hit single “Power Trip”. This served as the ice breaker the crowd needed to really get involved with the show, and Miguel used that new sense of energy to sneak a bonafide slow jam into his set with “Pussy Is Mine”, something he described as “pulling the audible”.
The L.A. crooner pulled out his “so-big-he-has-to-play-it” hit “Adorn", which saw him breaking out some very Prince-esque stage moves. The track would have served as a perfect closer to Miguel's energetic set, were it not for an even bigger reveal-- which saw Mariah Carey step onto the stage for the duet “Beautiful”.
Miguel demonstrated his excitement in sharing the stage with the legend by jumping around the stage, even sliding across the floor to Mariah's feet at one point. Carey stayed characteristically poised, focusing her energy on proving she can still hit those insane high notes she's known for, taking it right into whistle territory, as the two traded falsetto runs for a very impressive close to the set.
Waletook the stage following Miguel, at approximately 7:40 PM. He entered the stage to one of his bigger singles, “Lotus Flower Bomb.” Although the singer accompanying him was a little hard to hear, Wale held it down on the mic.
The MMG rapper asked us to “turn the fuck up” before he got into “Slight Work.” He then decided to do his “Rack City” freestyle, which is also a strip club anthem, “Pole.” He did another one for the dancing ladies with “Drop It To The Floor” and proceeded to slow things down with yet another lady-themed-song, his single “Bad.”
Wale didn’t keep things mellow for too long though. He had a fellow MMG rapper backstage with him, none other than Meek Mill. Wale drummed up anticipation for the Philly native to take the stage by first spitting Meek’s “Dreamchasers Intro” verse acapella. Soon enough, Meek had joined Wale on stage and taken over his song.
Meek probably got the crowd the most excited we’d seen them yet, with his loud voice and energy doing the trick. While Meek is often criticized for just “yelling” on a track, at a huge show like Summer Jam, Meek’s delivery and style are actually well-suited.
He brought the energy of the crowd up as he did more bangers, including “I’m A Boss,” and “House Party.” Through out all this, and Meek had the biggest smile stretched across his face, evidence that he was happy to be there (you’d never know with some rappers). Meek closed out his surprise set with his brand new Cardo-produced single “Levels,” which the crowd loved.
Following Wale there was a Funkmaster Flex DJ intermission at the end of which Angie Martinez came on stage to introduce the next artist. We were surprised to find out Chris Brown was taking the stage so early (it was still light out), however, given the backdrop and stage set-up, it made sense.
The r’n’b singer had a futuristic-looking backdrop, with an extra level on the stage added in the form of a grey space-ship-like platform, complete with purple and blue lights. As Chris entered the stage, so did his glowing-green back-up dancers, whose costumes changed colors through out his set. The singer kicked off his set with the perfect song to get fans excited, “Beautiful People.” The song seemed to be more auto-tuned than usual, however, most people were probably preoccuiped with Chris' dancing, not to mention a break-dancing segment which upped the theatrics once more.
As Chris’ performance continued, the crowd was looking much fuller. The L.A. native did what every artist before him had done, and proceeded to turn up with “Strip.” Both M iguel and Chris Brown held down r'n'b for the hip-hop event, but, Breezy hadn't fogotten hip-hop completely. He told the crowd, “let’s do some hip-hop shit real quick.” He got right into “Look At Me Now,” and when Busta Rhyme’s verse came on, instead of Busta, we were entertained by a crazy break-dancing guy, wo did a flip off the stage platform onto the main stage.
The stage lighting quickly turned all blue, and things slowed down, as Chris came back out with an outfit change. He was now sporting a long black leather tank (black leather seemed to be a theme at Summer Jam this year), and sang “Don’t Judge Me.” The pace picked up again quickly when Chris brought out surprise guest Sean Kingston for Sean’s new single “Beat It.”
As the sun was setting and the sky was finally turning dark, C. Breezy's jam-packed set was coming to a close. He performed a single off his upcoming album X, “Fine China,” before closing it out with Fabolous’ single “Ready,” allowing Fabolous to do his thing after he left the stage.
Fabolous's performance of “Ready” with Chris Brown was one of the better segues of the night, which served as a seamless transition into Loso's set (highly preferable to the many DJ interruptions throughout the night). It was instantly apparent that Fab's performance would benefit from his status as a NY rap veteran, and the new absence of the sun, showcasing a light show that was missed in the daytime performances.
Fab started out with his brand new single “When I Feel Like It”, which started things off with a bang, but sorely missed what seemed like an obvious appearance from 2 Chainz. As much energy as the crowd supplied Loso, he had a harder time giving much of a presence back to them, but made up for it with some animated guest appearances.
Tour-mate Pusha T joined Fab for “The Life Is So Exciting”, his wide-eyed excitement pumping some life into the NY rapper's reserved delivery. Push then ripped into his verse from “Don't Like” which had already been sung back multiple times by the crowd during intermissions, and saw no lack of interaction in its live incarnation.
Fab then brought out easily the most lively emcee of the night, when Meek Mill joined him for “Racked Up Shawty”. Just as things started to cool down with Loso's slow jam “You Be Killin' Em”, he delivered one of the biggest surprises of the night (not to be confused with the most exciting) when he called upon “Brooklyn's baddest” to take the stage, and Lil Kim appeared for a brief verse.
Fabolous' set ended with a strange denoument, which saw him walk off the stage rather anti-climactically after a short discussion with his DJ. Chances are he ran out of time, but still left the crowd satisfied, though surely a few were disappointed with the absence of “Breathe”.
In a festival mainly stacked with young and current hitmakers, Wu-Tang Clan definitely stuck out as a testament to New York rap history. The crew were very much embracing their first project 36 Chambers, which celebrates it's 20th anniversary this year. Coming out with the iconic “Bring Da Ruckus”, all surviving members of the Wu recreated their early hits with a youthful exuberance hardly decipherable from their 2 decade old recordings.
Going through fan favourites like “CREAM”, “7th Chamber”, and “"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit", Wu seemed very excited about sharing the stage once more, often finding it difficult not to rap along with each of their fellow members classic verses. They paid tribute to the fallen ODB, taking turns in reciting the iconic “Shame On A Nigga”, and later brought out the late rapper's own son (who now sports a hair-style very similar to his father's) to perform “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”.
While RZA stopped to say a few words about the importance of the Wu, Method Man shined as the frontman of the group in its live incarnation. Delivering a lively take of his showcasing cut off their debut, “M.E.T.H.O.D. Man”.
The collective closed with their verse-heavy “Triumph”, which got the biggest reaction in their set, but Method Man once again came through as the group's central performer to do his verse from “Da Rockwilder” before leaving the stage.
While it's safe to say Wu is an old enough act that some of Summer Jam's younger clientele may have had trouble engaging with their set, the clan delivered a performance that anyone even casually familiar with their work could have enjoyed.
2 Chainz came on stage at 9:55 PM completely turned up and ready to go. He jumped on stage rapping to “Mercy” briefly before getting into his single “Crack” off his debut album Based On A T.R.U. Story. 2 Chainz was dressed in an appropriately-themed outfit-- gold everywhere, on his shorts, long-sleeve shirt, around his neck. He was on some multiple chain shit. He rocked the outfit and the stage to match, his performance was one of the highlights of the night, as the energy he was able to feed into the crowd was almost surprising-- he’s not a young cat, you know, Tity Boi is 35 years old, yet he jumped around the stage more than an 17-year-old rapper.
2 Chainz soon got the crowd even more excited, as his surprise guest was also one of the biggest of the nights: Nicki Minaj. Ms. Minaj was not on good terms with Hot 97 or their Summer Jam event, ever since last year’s Peter Rosenberg mishap. However, we had an inkling she may be one of the surprise guests at SJXX, because just a week or two prior to the big day, Nicki sat down with Rosenberg and made up. Nonetheless, it was kind of funny that Nicki was there,although Rosenberg may no longer be her rival (he even came on stage and hugged her after her performance), she did have two other enemies there that night: Mariah Carey and Lil Kim. We’re wondering if anything went down backstage.
Back to Nicki and 2 Chainz’ set: the two performed Chainz’ single “I Luv Dem Strippers” before they got into Nicki’s strip-club single, “Beez In The Trap.”
After Nicki exited the stage, Tity Boi got into one of the bangers off his mixtape, “Spend It.” Finally, it was time to hear 2 Chainz’ new single, which he promised to premiere at SJXX. It’s always tricky to do new material at live shows because the crowd isn’t really able to interact with the artist, and who knows how they might receive the music, so it could be a completely dead as the crowd kinda sits there. This was sort of the case for 2 Chainz, but we could hear the potential in “Feds Watching,” it's definitely a song to listen to in CDQ.
With the crowd’s energy somewhat lower after Tity Boi did his new single, he brought the energy right back up with his hit “Birthday Song.” The best part about 2 Chainz’ set was when he asked for a moment of silence. We’re all here thinking okay, he’s about to say rest in peace to someone who passed away, but no, 2 Chainz says, “rest in peace to this motherfucking stage!” and proceeds to perform his verse on Young Jeezy’s “R.I.P.” 2 Chainz ended his set with two singles off his first album, “I’m Different” and “No Lie,” leaving the crowd with a ton of energy, and nowhere to put it, until the next artist hit the stage.
A$AP Rocky came onstage after a pretty serious delay, which was only explained by some “crazy shit” going on backstage. Rocky seemed excited to get main stage billing this year, graduating from the festival stage in 2012. He made sure to give a shoutout to Maino, who brought him out to the main stage last year, as well as Teyana Taylor (which seemed strange at the time, but ended up being a smug reference to a lyric Ferg debuted on the Festival stage).
Rocky came out with a bang, dropping his Hit-Boy assisted hit “Goldie”, before going through “Angels” and a particularly memorable “Peso”, for which he brought his crew out for a celebratory “look how far I've come” kind of moment.
Things were only getting started at that point, as Rocky brought out Bone Thugz N Harmony for "Thuggish Ruggish Bone" to bring things back to the 90s one more time. The sheer amount of people on stage had the crowd going crazy, but it was only about go get even more crowded.
The opening to Ferg's “Work (Remix)” rang out, and some gold chains and a designer bucket hat were visible amongst the mayhem. A$AP Ferg, Trinidad Jame$ and ScHoolBoy Q delivered their verses to the street anthem, and it was one of the first times at the festival where there was no need to instruct the audience to “Turn Up!”, even though French Montana was nowhere to be found.
The only way to top that kind of a posse cut is to drop an even bigger posse cut, which is exactly what A$AP did. The even-lankier-in-person 2 Chainz graced the stage, reciting his ferocious hook on “Fuckin Problems”, and the set hit it's peak when Kendrick emerged, his stature comical relative to Tity Boi, but his rhyming as impressive as ever. The climax of A$AP's set coincided with a heavy outpour of rain, seemingly synced up perfectly with K-Dot's appearance, and only adding more intensity to one of the fest's craziest moments.
Kendrick Lamar was definitely one of the most anticipated acts of the night, and he did not disappoint one bit. The only thing that dampened K. Dot’s set was the rain, which had basically held out the entire night, until the end of Rocky's and the beginning of K. Dot. It actually started pouring more during Kendrick’s set, which forced a few concert go-ers to exit or look for shelter, but the majority of us held out.
Kendrick spit through the rain, coming on stage to “Backseat Freestyle.” His voice sounded crisp, and he was one of the few rappers who didn’t have his track backing him the entire time (he did have a back track, but it seemed it was mainly for the hooks). We were wondering if all of Black Hippy would be representing at SJXX, and we were about to find out.
K. Dot got into “Money Trees” off his debut album, and it was just as dope as on the album. Jay Rock took the stage to do his verse, giving us hope that if ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock are around, so is Ab-Soul..but we had to wait to find out. “U.O.E.N.O.” started playing, and the Compton native got in to his verse, making the entire crowd excited that all of Black Hippy would perform their remix. However, we were quickly let down, as Kendrick finished his verse and that was it.
It was just a momentary let-down that we forgot almost as fast as it happened because Kendrick started to do “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” He then did another GKMC track with “Poetic Justice,” and brought out the final Black Hippy member we had yet to see that night, Soulo ho3.
Ab-Soul didn’t need flashy shit and chains to get his raps done, he wore a red snapback and a black t-shirt, spitting his politically-charged song “Terrorist Threats.” The energy in the crowd continued to rise, as ScHoolboy Q came out to do his drug-talking single “Yay Yay.”
Kendrick then took back the stage, sort of, because he proceeded to call the A$AP Mob and TDE members to forefront of the stage (the stage, by the way, was packed at this point-- it was like a whole separate party going on up there). K. Dot ended with “M.a.a.d City” before peacing out, and lettingPapoose perform his one song.
Basically, everyone thought that there was a DJ intermission after Kendrick left, but then someone started rapping on stage. It was none other than Papoose. It was completely random, yes, but the crowd didn’t care (and Ebro cared too much). We were still being fed energy in the form of raps, so who cares if Papoose got to shine for three minutes and then shouted-out his girlfriend, Remy Ma? We didn’t. All in all, Kendrick and the Black Hippy crew had some of the nicest performances of the night, with stage presence to match.
French Montana was a surprising choice for a closer to the festival. While French certainly has a considerable selection of hits, he still seems like a newcomer. The obvious conclusion of his placement as the final act seemed to indicate that he would probably be bringing out the biggest guests.
Coming out with “I'm A Coke Boy” FrenchMontana was joined by his crew member Chinx Drugz, but things didn't really get going until he dropped his banger “Ocho Cinco” which while notably lacked his Bad Boy crew from the remix, had the whole crowd singing the hook back to Montana.
This is where the guest appearances came full throttle. Ace Hood and DJ Khaled crashed the stage for the gigantic hit “Bugatti” which had the crowd going crazy, even without Future on the hook.
French took a backseat to make way for the banger, but answered right back when he rapped his verse from his biggest hit “Pop That” acapella, which once again saw every audience member reciting the lyrics along with him.
The beat dropped, and anticipation instantly built for the possible guest appearances. Sure enough, Rick Ross emerged from the giant crowd of artists now watching from the sidelines, and was visibly gleeful in the delivery of his verse, commanding full attention from the audience. Drake was an unfortunate no-show, which was clear to the crowd from his absence from previous tracks like “No Lie” and “Fuckin Problems”, but many were still holding out for Wayne.
Weezy burst out on to to the stage with more energy than we'd seen the entire night, even though the mere sight of him was enough to get the crowd going. Dreads swinging, and arms flailing, Tunechi got the energy up to the highest it had been all night.
It was a quick high unfortunately, as the lights turned on as he uttered his final line, leaving the crowd a bit taken aback. French's set was seemingly cut short, most likely to do with noise laws in New Jersey, but it left the audience thinking what else was planned for his appearance. “Freaks” with Nicki which was pretty much expected at that point, and Wayne and Ross seemed underused.
Overall it was still a pretty epic closing to the night, and leaving fans wanting more is never a bad thing. However, the feature heavy performance didn't bode very well for French's reputation as an artist who can't hold his own on a track.